SongKran Celebrations in Chiang Mai, Thailand: Tips for Travelers

SongKran Celebrations in Chiang Mai, Thailand: Tips for Travelers

One of the best things about traveling is being able to expose yourself to a new culture—one that is vastly different from your own. In Southeast Asia, there are a variety of customs, holidays, and festivals that foreigners are able to take part in to further learn about the society and country they are traveling or living in.

One of the biggest and most exciting festivals in Thailand(facts) is called Songkran. This festival takes place in April (13-15), and lasts up to a week in certain cities. Chiang Mai is usually pinpointed as the epicenter of the festival, but celebrations take place all over Thailand. Songkran is also known as the Thai New Year; the word itself is derived from Sanskrit, and signifies the sun moving into the sign of a Zodiac. As Songkran is always celebrated in April, this particular Songkran stands for the sun entering the sign of Aries.

Songkran in Chiang Mai

How is Songkran Celebrated

Songkran is celebrated much differently than any typical Western holiday; instead of fireworks and counting down until midnight, this festival prides itself on the water fights that take place in the streets. Most all shops in Thailand close down, and every one takes to the streets with water guns and buckets to douse each other. This, according to tradition, is symbolic of washing away the past year, and getting ready for a new one. You are literally cleaning off the mistakes and habits of the year prior in order to start with a fresh slate. The water fights are an escalation from the original ritual that used to (and still does) take place—pouring fragrant water on Buddha statues at home or around the city.

Songkran in April, Chiang Mai Thailand

Traditions in Songkran

As a tourist, being involved with the parades of water fights is the most direct way to experience Songkran. However, there are other traditions that accompany this celebration for the Thai locals; most people will return back to their families (if they don’t live in the same city), visit temples, and clean their homes in preparation for the upcoming year.

Monks Cleaning

There are specified days to celebrate the elderly, and to celebrate family. People also tie small strings around the wrists of loved ones in order to wish them luck in the upcoming year. You might also encounter people rubbing paste / powder on other’s faces; this is meant to protect from any evil that might come your way.

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Tips for Travelers during Songkran

As many people are traveling throughout the country during Songkran (to see family), the prices of hotels and of travel go up significantly; therefore, if you plan to celebrate, be sure to book in advance to avoid sellouts. You should also be sure to put your valuables in waterproof casing so you don’t ruin any electronics. Remember to balance your amusement with respect; don’t throw water at anyone who asks you not to, don’t pour water on monks or young children, and be extremely careful if you choose to drive a motorbike that day (many accidents take place around Thailand during this festival).

Songkran in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I highly recommend that anyone traveling throughout Asia research which festivals may take place throughout their time traveling; it is a great way to more closely